Recycled Paper – The Facts

One or two interesting FAQs relating to the pros and cons of recycled vs virgin paper.

What is Virgin Paper?

It’s the name for paper that comes directly from sustainable sources like trees or plants without having been through a recycling process.

What gives paper its characteristics?

The different fibre lengths are mainly what give paper its different characteristics. Virgin pulp fibres can be anything in length from 5mm (those from the softwood trees of the north) to as little as 1mm (from hardwood trees of the temperate regions). The long fibres of the softwoods are perfect for making strong Kraft papers, compared to shorter hardwood fibres which help towards a nice smooth finish!

Where does recycled paper come from?

Recycled paper contains fibre from waste paper. It can often include a high proportion of ‘post-consumer waste’ which is paper that has already been used in its final form.

Is recycled paper as strong as virgin paper?

Not always. The recycling process is damaging to fibres, which lose strength when they have been recycled again and again. The more times a fibre is recycled, the shorter and weaker it becomes. For the best of both, recycled fibres can be added to a virgin pulp as a ‘mix’, offering the benefits of virgin with the lower cost of recycled. The mix can be varied to increase or decrease the characteristics of each.

Can recycled papers look as good as virgin paper?

Recycled papers are often slightly ‘off-white’ or grey in colour – a feature that’s created when the print or dyes in the original paper are mixed with recyclate. Special additives can be used to remove the dyes, and achieve a similar visual appearance (if not strength) as a virgin paper.

Does the use of recycled paper protect trees?

One of the unique benefits of paper, is that the raw material is renewable. The paper industry has a number of certification schemes such as the FSC that ensure the source of the paper we use is being renewed. Using recycled paper won’t necessarily save trees, but it does ensure we use the fibre more efficiently.

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